Watsonville hospital purchase finalized; Monterey County contributes $3 million

Peninsula Premier Admin

SALINAS — The finalization for the purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital by the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District was announced by the office of state Sen. John Laird on Wednesday.

Monterey County Supervisor Luis Alejo said that it was important for Monterey County to help fund the purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital because “without the hospital, Pajaro Valley residents would have been forced to go to Salinas or Santa Cruz for medical emergencies, placing lives at risk when every minute is critical.”

The Pajaro River is the boundary between Santa Cruz and Monterey counties. Monterey County kicked in $3 million toward the $67 million it took for the district to buy the health care facility.

“There are two major reasons why it was important for Monterey County to help with the purchase of Watsonville hospital,” said Laird, D-Santa Cruz.

First, the hospital district actually includes the far northern portion of Monterey County and will provide primary care to those residents. It includes communities such as Pajaro, Las Lomas and Royal Oaks. Second, if the Watsonville hospital went under, the residents of Pajaro Valley would go into either Salinas or Santa Cruz for care, which he said would be an incredible burden on other hospitals in Monterey and Santa Cruz counties.

“The purchase of the hospital is the most significant accomplishment for the health and safety of all Pajaro Valley residents in both counties,” said Alejo, the former mayor of Watsonville. “The hospital was once a nonprofit hospital and now, it’s back in the hands of the public, solely for the benefit of the public.”

Watsonville Community Hospital filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late 2021 and was to be auctioned in late February of this year. But urgency legislation in the form of Senate Bill 418 was brought forward by Laird and coauthored by state Assemblymen Robert Rivas and Mark Stone, and Sen. Anna Caballero. The bill was passed unanimously by the state Assembly and Senate in early February and Gov. Gavin Newsom signed it into law establishing the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District.

The nonprofit health care district was created to advocate for community-led health care services and the purchase of Watsonville Community Hospital to transition it to community ownership and governance. Its board of directors includes leadership from Santa Cruz County, the city of Watsonville, Community Health Trust of Pajaro Valley and Salud Para La Gente.

“It’s amazing, I’m really excited,” said Laird.

After eight months of intense work, Laird said it is unbelievably rewarding. There were times along the way when he was not sure the end result would happen.

But with the support of the community and key contributors such as Santa Cruz and Monterey counties, the Central California Alliance for Health, the Community Health Trust of the Pajaro Valley, the city of Watsonville, Kaiser Foundation Health Plan and Dominican Hospital/Common Spirit, the purchase was made possible.

Laird said in a press release that he applauds the community for rallying together to make it happen, acknowledging that “creating and funding an entire healthcare district in less than a year is a complex and difficult task.”

The Pajaro Valley Heathcare District Project led the fundraising effort.

The creation of the Pajaro Valley Healthcare District was led by Laird and Rivas, with the two securing a $25 million appropriation from the state toward the effort to purchase the hospital.

“There’s still a lot of hard work ahead to keep the hospital operating, but we hope this will end up being a true health care success story for both of our counties,” said Alejo.

Contributed by local news sources

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